FOLLY BEACH — Tina Laird's family has spent the past decade fighting to see her killer brought to justice, a frustrating battle that has given them little peace. So to mark the 10th anniversary of her slaying, they've decided to focus on good memories they treasure from a simpler time.
Laird loved this funky, ocean-side town, and her family spent many vacations here, soaking up rays and playing in the surf. They decided it would be the perfect place to remember her and what she meant to them.
The family will gather at Folly Beach County Park for a candlelight vigil and memorial service at 7 p.m. Friday, 10 years from the day Laird was found stabbed and strangled in the trunk of her car near her Hollywood home.
"For 10 years we've put this out there and she has been in the role of victim," said her younger sister, Amanda Laird. "At this point, we really want to celebrate her life. And the best times were always here."
At the same time, they can't help but hope that the anniversary will generate a little more interest in Laird's case and perhaps that one tip investigators need to make an arrest and bring the case to trial.
"She's our sister," said older sibling Angel Laird. "We're never going to accept this."
After Laird's body was discovered, suspicion quickly turned to her husband, Jimmy Pritchard. They had a stormy marriage and had been seen arguing the morning she died.
Charleston County sheriff's deputies built a largely circumstantial case
against Pritchard and charged him with murder, but prosecutors dismissed the case for lack of evidence.
Pritchard has maintained his innocence in the killing and repeatedly swore he never raised a hand against a woman in anger. He is serving a five-year prison term after pleading guilty in October to beating a former girlfriend bloody in West Ashley.
Sheriff's Maj. John Clark said investigators remain convinced that they arrested the right man in Laird's death. A cold-case squad is now taking another look at the investigation in the hope of finding enough evidence to allow prosecutors to move forward.
"We want to make sure we didn't miss anything, and that we've done everything we can," Clark said.
In the meantime, Laird's family will remember the times they had with her and mourn the moments that were forever lost. Her son, James, and daughter, Felicity, were just little children when she died. They've spent more than half their lives without her.
"It hurts, because I have missed out on a lot of things I should have done with her," said Felicity, 17.
"She's not going to be there for my prom, my wedding, my first kid — none of that. A lot of people at my school get mad at their moms and say 'I wish my mom wasn't here.' I say 'No, you don't. You don't ever want to know what that's like."